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Madrid's 'boys from the bench' a big reason why they'll march over Barca
OK now, pay attention.
Can you tell me which two players have made the most appearances for Real Madrid in La Liga this season? I imagine the candidates are springing to your mind right away: Sergio Ramos? Toni Kroos? Cristiano Ronaldo? Keylor Navas?
No, only one of those names even makes Madrid's top-four league appearances list.
The fact is that Lucas Vazquez and Isco lead that list with 28 and 26 matches (not starts), respectively.
What's more, Lucas has the most total appearances for Madrid across all five tournaments in which Zinedine Zidane's side have competed this season. The winger has played 42 times across the UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Club, La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League.
And as Madrid sit with a clear advantage at the top of La Liga with just the same kind of steely grip on their Champions League quarterfinal against Bayern Munich, Lucas' total so far is three goals and seven assists.
As for Isco, this is his most prolific season since joining the club, with nine goals and four assists, meaning that the two have contributed 23 goals between them in what promises to be Madrid's greatest season since Vicente del Bosque was in charge 15 years ago.
On Saturday, Lucas smashed the dugout interior in fury when he was substituted, only to claim afterward that it was frustration at Madrid likely dropping a point given that the score was 2-2 at that stage. Perhaps it was just that, rather than anger over not completing the eventual 3-2 win over Sporting Gijon. Who can say?
On Saturday, Isco scored the added-time winner with a long, raking shot that was celebrated at the end like a cup final win by him and his teammates. A massive moment.
So it's these two guys, as emblems, who help identify why it is that Madrid could tuck away a Champions League semifinal place this week and seal just their second La Liga title since 2008 while Barcelona look punch-drunk, unsure of themselves and vulnerable.
True, true: Nothing's over until it's over. Stranger things have happened than Bayern somehow winning 2-1 and then taking the tie on penalties (something I firmly doubt) or Barcelona using the Clasico mantra that "form goes out the window" in order to register an unlikely win at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.